For the love of all things fried

As with all most parents, we want the best for our child. This includes all sorts of organic, no-pesticides, BPA-free, no chemicals, no evil plastics, ethnically-grown produce, yada yada yada when it comes to food. I swear I started off strong. I made all sorts of home-style puree when Elliott turned 6 months old and was ready for solids. I sliced, washed 3x (sometimes 10x), diced, chopped, peeled, pureed, all sorts of organic and ETHICALLY-GROWN vegetables I could find at the chi-chi supermarkets. Of course, after all that hard work, my child would, more often than not, take half a spoon, before spitting out the entire lot before giving me a WTF WAS THAT, MOTHER? face.

So yes, you can’t say I didn’t try to win the most-awesome-mother-who-cooks-only-organic-and-healthy-food for her child award.

I tried my best. I truly did.

His experience with food hasn’t been the easiest. He would eat certain food groups at certain stage of his life. At one point, it was all NANAS. Nanas (bananas) were the BEST FOOD EVER. Then he decided he didn’t like it anymore. We then moved on to roast chicken. He loved my Anyhow chicken and would eat them happily. I used to just sit and watch him put away ’em chicken bits because it was such a lovely sight to watch my child eat something nutritious THAT I MADE (using the oven).

Now. These days, he has decided that CARBOHYDRATES ARE THE WAY TO GO. He likes white rice. No, scratch them. HE LOVES WHITE RICE. Steamed white rice to be exact. He is very happy when we feed him bits of steamed white rice. And hell hath no fury if we attempt to smuggle in a teeny tiny bit of protein in the form of minced chicken or pork. His refined taste buds have a knack for detecting the offensive foreign intrusion and before you can say “meat is good for you”, out it comes from his mouth. I have since learnt to hover the bowl at his chin -just in case-. He has also learnt to peruse his food carefully, giving it a once over, before opening his mouth if he deems it acceptable (which basically means WHITE RICE ONLY PLEASE).

Other than carbohydrates, his other approved food item is anything FRIED and made of POTATO. Actually, it’s really just FRIED POTATOES. Think french fries and hash brown. No mashed potatoes please. We just want POTATOES (real or frozen – doesn’t mater) FRIED TO A CRISP.

I feel that I need to clarify at this point that on most days, his awesome grandmamas cook him brown rice porridge simmered with pork ribs and (Japanese) pumpkin with salmon and/or some sort of expensive white fish I don’t know, I don’t buy ’em fish – the awesome grandmamas do. He is also a milk monster. You should see the way we dangle his milk bottle at him while he gets himself into a tizzy. I like to think that he is still getting his nutrients, somehow. As such, I have decided that this fried potato eating phase will be a phase and one day, we will look back at such episodes and laugh because THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

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HOORAY TO HASH BROWN FROM A PACKET!

Review + GIVEAWAY: Flip for Joy

I grew up in an English-speaking family. This means that when it came to Mandarin, the only exposure I got was the mandatory Chinese lessons we had in school. Till today, I remember dreading Chinese lessons because I had a really long-winded Chinese teacher who would spend 80% of class time telling us about her children, her pet goldfish, etc, and then leave 5 minutes or less to rush through the syllabus. You can imagine how much I hated Chinese back then. To prepare for the O levels, my mum signed me up for one-on-one tuition with this really fierce ex-Principal Chinese teacher who would drill me every other day on the language. I remember lugging my heavy school bag to her house for tuition and falling asleep from exhaustion when she made me write some cheem Chinese phrase over and over again. Also, I came from a all-girls convent and speaking Mandarin was very uncool. Huayu was not very cool then.

I have to add that thanks to all that intensive tuition, my Mandarin is not that bad. I can speak and can type out simple text messages in Mandarin. However, anything more complicated will cause my brain to sprain. My in-laws are Mandarin-speaking folks so I have a lot of practise with them. They are the only ones who address me by my Chinese name (no one else does!) and whenever I am at their place, I try and read the giant headlines on Lianhe Wanbao which is usually about some mistress getting beaten up by the wife with interviews with the neighbours, the 3rd aunty’s son, etc.

As with most modern parents these days, we want our child to grow up bilingual. Specifically, we want Elliott to be able to speak English and his mother tongue, Mandarin, fluently. My MIL cares for him 3 times a week and she is really good with reading and speaking to him. These days, he can recite simple children’s rhymes, count from 1-10 and point out household objects, all in Mandarin. I claim ZERO credit. Full credit goes to my in-laws.

I stumbled upon Flip for Joy when I was searching online for “Chinese books for toddlers”. Flip for Joy is a “Singapore-based children’s bookstore, dedicated to sourcing the best Chinese books around the world.” Back then, I ordered the Chinese version of “Where is the green sheep?” titled <绿绵羊在哪里?> because back then, it was one of Elliott’s favourite books. I also got him a book titled <我会穿衣服> as it will allow him to practise buttoning, zipping and lacing various items in the book.

Recently, much to my delight, Elliott was gifted with a few more books from Flip for Joy. Meiru, the 老板娘 of Flip for Joy, contacted me and offered to choose a few Chinese books for Elliott based on his likes. I told her that he’s currently into anything vehicle-related, i.e. cars, trains, trucks, etc. I also shared that he’s into “flap” books.

I was very thrilled when the large package arrived. So many lovely books to read! They were mostly vehicle-themed and one particular one titled <不行,危险!> caught my eye. I laughingly told the husband that my MIL will lurrrrrve this book because she’s always telling Elliott to be careful to not do this, and that. This is a synopsis of the book, taken from Flip for Joy’s page:

A fascinating and fun-filled book with wheels that will teach our little ones about road safety. Children will be able to relate their own experiences on the go to that of the various adorable animals’ and learn how to behave appropriately when travelling in the car. Lift the flaps to see how the animals can enjoy a car ride in a safe manner. The book made of child-friendly material and rounded edges is gentle on the children’s hands. A great book to bring on the go!

Elliott is very taken with the book because…..it has wheels! And flaps that he can lift! He has also recently taken to saying “危险!” whenever I read the book. He probably doesn’t quite understand what the phrase means but whenever I read it, I shake my head and furrow my brows so I think he gets the idea that it is a “no no”.

He is also at the age where every button is a MUST PRESS. Another favourite from the collection is a 3-book series called <这是谁的声音?交通工具系列> because each book comes in the shape of the vehicle (all his favourites – boat! plane! train!) but more importantly, each book has a little button where he can press to hear the sound the vehicle makes.

Despite my less-than-stellar Chinese standards, I can generally read most of the words in these books. I have to admit that some words stump me and I gloss over quickly to the next word. Hur hur. I usually would leave the reading of these books to the husband who will usually read them with gusto and sound effects. It is very cute to hear him reading Chinese books to our little man. The books we have contain simple Chinese words and some even come with hanyu pinyin.  BIG PHEW.

I really like these books because they are hardy and have survived the rough manhandling by my toddler who has thrown them across the room, from a height and even used them as toys (the ones that come with wheels turn into a toy truck for him). Importantly, these books come with rounded edges which make these books safe for little ones. They are also of good quality and as far as I can see, I have not spotted any glaring errors in the books that we have received.

I love that Elliott’s little library has a good mix of English and Chinese books. I am not sure how much of our reading sessions will rub off on him but hopefully, in time to come, he does not fear the Chinese language and instead, develop an appreciation for the language and stories. I look forward to the day when he can read the Chinese language books along with me.

GIVEAWAY

To spread the love, Flip for Joy is kindly giving away two S$20 e-gift cards to readers of Bubsicles. These e-gift cards can be used for any book purchase on the Flip for Joy website. It is a one-time usage e-gift card and will be valid for 6 months.

To qualify:

  1. Like our Bubsicles Facebook review post here.
  2. Share the review post on your Facebook timeline.
  3. Like Flip for Joy’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/flipforjoy
  4. Leave a comment on our Facebook review post telling us your favourite title from Flip for Joy and why.

That’s it! We will then choose 2 of the best answers to win the e-gift cards.

This giveaway ends on 12 December, 11:59pm and is open only to Singapore residents. Winners will be contacted via their Facebook account through private message and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be selected. All incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries will be verified before the winners are announced. To be fair to our sponsors, please note that all fake Facebook accounts (eg. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no or very few real friends) will also be ineligible to win.

Wait. There’s more.

Christmas is round the corner and we all know how stressful Christmas shopping. Share the joy of reading this Christmas and receive a $5 e-gift card (valid for 6 months) from Flip for Joy for every $50 spent in the month of December.

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” ~ Garrison Keillor

Disclaimer: I was given a selected range of Chinese books from Flip for Joy for the purpose of a review. All opinions are mine.

I smacked my child

Last night, as I laid beside Elliott for his last milk feed for the day, I wept. I wept because I felt like the world’s worst mother (WWM for short – this will appear a few times in this entry so let’s just save everyone’s time). I started to think that maybe, we took such a long and ardous journey to become parents because Some Divine Being Somewhere knew that I’d be a crap mother so Some Divine Being Somewhere decided to not let us be parents for a while. Maybe it was a fluke that we became parents because you know…fluke.

I felt like the WWM because I smacked Elliott’s hands for tipping his milk from his bottle onto the cloth sofa. 10 seconds before, he was playing with the light switch (repeatedly) in the living room and already, my patience was wearing very thin. It had been a long day and I was exhausted. Not that it is an excuse but I am relating it as it is.

Yes, I just confessed to smacking my child’s hand. Please don’t call child services.

It wasn’t the first time I have smacked his hand. Every single time I did it, I would be consumed with enough guilt to eat me up twice over and would vow to myself to never, ever hit him again because hitting IS WRONG. This little incident also jolted me into stopping this smacking-hands business.

He was up to his usual curious mischief and for the life of me, I cannot remember what it was that he was doing. It was probably (1) climbing onto the dining table (2) flicking the light switch repeatedly (3) sticking his hand into Moon’s water bowl (4) placing his hand between the open fridge door (5) a combination of items (1) to (4).

I said in a stern voice: “ELLIOTT. STOP IT. What did Mummy say?“(The answer is: Mummy says “no no“. And depending on severity of action, that “no no” may be followed by a quick smack on his errant hand.)

My child stopped in his tracks, looked at me with his innocent eyes, shook his hand and said “no no“. He then proceeded to use one hand to smack his other hand. Repeatedly.

My heart broke at that instance.

My child was mimicking me. He was repeating my actions.

So I swore to myself that I will control my frustration and anger. To count to 10 before reacting. To tell him calmly that he should not play with the light switch for the 200th time (today). To, basically, not hit my child.

A couple of months went by and I must say that I did pretty decently. When he acted up, I remained cool, breathed (very very very deeply), and managed to steer him away from whatever it was that was dangerous. The distraction tactic.

But last night, I lost it. I forgot that vow to myself. Again.

Which is why I felt like the WWM because I knew that I reacted out of frustration and tiredness. In fact, it happened so quickly, I did not even have time to think before reacting. And the result of that smack?

Elliott bawled. Very loudly.

It was probably from the shock of the smack, and not from knowing that he did something wrong. Which is why I keep reminding myself that smacking does not work because I honestly don’t think it gets through to him. Or does it?

You know that  phrase about how “it will get easier” (when they are older)? That’s such a misnomer. Yes, he is sleeping through the night. Yes, he is eating (a bit). Yes, he is a milk monster. Yes, he is generally a happy and friendly child.

But does it really get…easier? I don’t think so. Not on many other aspects.

Like, disciplining your child. This whole gentle parenting business is doing my head in because as much as I try, it is so damn hard. This parenting business? Tough as sh*t.

And that other saying about how our kids make us better people? That is definitely (a lot of) work in progress for me. But I will work damn hard on it.

The art of empathy

Being a parent is tough. I think what we sometimes forget is that every child is different and that we are all doing this for the first time. I will confess that there are times when I wonder if we are doing the right thing, if we are nurturing our boys in the right way that suits their growth. And the scary thing is, we will not know until many, many years later, when they are adults and off into the world on their own.

Recently, we had a string of incidents with A. Last week was his birthday and we made a last-minute decision to join our friends for a holiday at Legoland. It was, as the song goes, AWESOME! We had SO. MUCH. FUN. And the boys were thrilled to be able to play and dance and sing and (eeps) yell together. The two older ones, A and David, did not want to go home and frankly, I don’t blame them.

Come Monday, though, we were braced for the storm. A did not want to go back to school.
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On loving co-sleeping

When Aidan was born, I had a lot of ideas regarding sleep. Specifically, I had a lot of ideas regarding sleep based on parenting books.

He should go to sleep drowsy but awake. He should not be nursed to sleep. He should nap x hours a day. He should go to bed by 730pm. He should have x hours of overnight sleep. He should not have bad sleep associations. He should learn to self-soothe. He should not co-sleep and learn to sleep by himself.

I tried, as much as I could, to foster these so-called “healthy sleep habits” in him. But no matter what I did, he just did not sleep through the night and ended up in our bed. Some nights were good, in that he only woke up twice. Some nights were plain awful and I was up every 90 minutes or so. Some mornings I would wake up in a foul mood, slamming doors and feeling like I wanted to run away and not be shackled to the sleep of my little one. There was also a nagging question of whether I had (or had not) done something to cause his bad sleep.

At almost three, he is still not sleeping through the night.
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